(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine this week warned consumers to beware of tech support scams, which have been reported by dozens of Ohioans in recent weeks.
Tech support scams (also known as computer repair scams) often begin when consumers receive a phone call or warning message claiming there’s a problem with their computer. They are asked to follow a series of instructions, and ultimately, they’re told to provide payment, access to their device, or personal information so the operator can address the supposed problem. Consumers who follow the instructions risk losing money and compromising their personal information.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Help Center logged more than 60 reports of the scam in September. While most consumers haven’t reported losing any money, some said they lost thousands of dollars.
“Instead of fixing problems, phony tech support operators just cause more problems,” Attorney General DeWine said. “They take money to correct problems that don’t actually exist, and they put consumers’ personal information at risk. We want to warn people to be very careful any time they get an unexpected message or call saying there’s a problem with their device.”
Tips to avoid tech support scams include:
- Don’t give a stranger access to your device. If you receive an unexpected call or message saying there’s a problem with your computer or other device, don’t give the caller to access your device, don’t provide personal information, and don’t buy any software the caller claims to be selling. Instead, hang up.
- Beware of pop-up messages. Scammers may use full-screen warnings or smaller pop-up messages made to look like legitimate virus warnings. Don’t click on suspicious links or pop-ups, and don’t call phone numbers contained in these messages or ads.
- Know where to find real help. To find legitimate computer repair help, look through the tech support information found with your security or antivirus software package, contact your internet service provider, or locate documentation from your computer manufacturer. You may want to talk to friends and family for referrals and find out if a local computer repair service is available in your area. When searching online for help, be aware that some scam artists place legitimate-looking ads offering services they won’t actually provide.
- Be wary if you’re asked to pay using gift cards or wire transfers. Con artists often ask for payment using one of these methods, because it is difficult to trace or recover the money after it’s sent. A scam artist may tell someone to buy a gift card and then read the card numbers over the phone. This allows the scam artist to drain funds from the card, even without having the card itself.
- Watch out for phony refund offers. Be extremely cautious of anyone who claims to offer you a refund for bad tech support services, even if the offer comes months after a tech support scam. The supposed refund may be part of another scam, where a con artist pretends to offer compensation as a way to get you to provide money or personal information.
Earlier this year, Attorney General DeWine announced an action along with the Federal Trade Commission to shut down a computer repair scam operation. In August, Attorney General DeWine also filed a lawsuit against a company called IGeeksOnline and a Columbus woman accused of misleading consumers about tech support services.
Warnings about computer repair scams are part of the Attorney General’s “Ohio Protects” initiative, which aims to help Ohioans recognize and avoid scams. The initiative includes several videos (including one about the computer repair scam), which can be found at www.OhioProtects.org/Videos.
Today’s warning also coincides with National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (October), which highlights the importance of cybersecurity.
To report a potential scam to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, call 800-282-0515 or visit www.OhioProtects.org.